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The Tenant Army rises

Published by Phil Morgan on Wednesday, January 9th, 2013 at 17:00 pm

Four years ago, at the giddy height of preparation for a National Tenant Voice, I argued for what I described as a Tenant Army. I stated that by training some 10,000 tenants each year that the new regulatory regime would well placed to benefit from trained tenants playing an active role. I also argued this would be a better use of the then proposed £1.5 million budget of the National Tenant Voice than a big bureaucratic regime.

Well it may have taken four years, the abandonment of the National Tenant Voice, reductions in the Tenant Empowerment Programme budget and the culling of the TSA but that idea of a tenant army idea has finally come to pass. The actual figure being proposed may be a more modest 5,000 tenants but the move to train tenants is fundamentally right and shows real ambition about the co-regulatory agenda.

In my work subsequently with landlords and tenants I’ve been really impressed by the calibre of people coming forward to take part in scrutiny, both from existing involved tenants and a newer group, often younger, more ethnically diverse and not from traditional tenant involvement routes.

I’ve also worked with some great officers, Board Members and councillors willing to embrace scrutiny and use it as a driver for service improvement and cultural change to reflect the importance of tenant empowerment.

But, as with anything that is new, there is a need to ensure tenants and others involved in tenant scrutiny really get to grips with what is involved, the links to co-regulation and the opportunity to drive change that benefits all tenants. So the face-to-face training of 5,000 tenants drawing on the experiences to date, is very welcome.

Are there any notes of caution? A couple. Firstly the outcomes from that training and support needs to be embraced by landlords as well. It would be unhelpful if the messages given to the Tenant Army were not shared by the officers, Board Members and councillors. This could easily result in wrangling or even conflict which could be avoided. So landlords should ensure they take up parallel opportunities to ensure they are well placed to respond to tenants when they return.

The wider concern is about the willingness of the regulator to ensure landlords abide by the requirements and opportunities on tenant involvement and scrutiny in the Social Housing Framework.

But it would be churlish to let these concerns diminish the achievement in getting both the funding and ambition in place for the Tenant Army to take form. Let’s see it really make a difference not for thousands but millions of tenants in terms of improved services.

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